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After a Failed First Attempt, Congress Passes Bill to Ban Abortions After 20 Weeks

After months of frustration among pro-lifers who were stunned over Congress’s failure to take a vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in January, legislation that bans abortions after 20 weeks, today the House comfortably passed a revised version of the lifesaving bill, with a final tally of 242-184.


The vote came on the two-year anniversary of late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s murder conviction. He was rightly thrown in jail for life for manslaughter and snipping babies' necks after they were born alive following botched abortions. Yet, as Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor for The Catholic Association, explains, the late-term abortion industry is unfortunately still alive.

Dr. [sic] Gosnell sits in jail because his reckless incompetence led him to kill premature babies born alive, but at least 140 other late-term abortion doctors continue to legally abort 18,000 babies annually past 20 weeks by industry approved techniques like dismemberment, or “D & E.” A study published last week in The New England Journal of Medicine confirmed that premature infants, born at 20 weeks post-fertilization (equivalent to 22 weeks gestation) can and do survive outside the womb. There is abundant scientific evidence and near universal scientific agreement that babies at this stage are capable of feeling pain.

The fact that unborn babies feel pain has been proven by experts. Maureen Condic, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah, provided some solid evidence to Congress in May 2013, during a hearing on an earlier version of the bill.

“The earliest “rudiment” of the human nervous system forms by 28 days (four weeks) after sperm – egg fusion. At this stage, the primitive brain is already “patterned”; i.e. cells in different regions are specified to produce structures appropriate to their location in the nervous system as a whole.”


However, today’s bill was not without its opponents.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) suggested the Pain-Capable bill was a violation of women and their bodily autonomy and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) even called the bill “disgustingly cruel.” One specific argument these pro-abortion congress members made, was that a provision in the bill forced minors who were sexually assaulted to report their harassment to law enforcement. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) insisted that was untrue and that conversations like those were a distraction from the larger picture of saving unborn lives.

Speaker of the House John Boehner, who is an ardent supporter of the legislation, spoke before the bill passed, insisting, “Protecting these lives is the right thing to do.” He also sent an email to supporters ahead of today’s vote, offering statistics that prove Americans’ want this bill passed.

  • 60 percent of adults (including 59 percent of women) prefer restrictions on abortion after 20 weeks. (Quinnipiac, 11/14)
  • 56 percent of adults (including 51 percent of Democrats) back restrictions on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with an additional 10 percent supporting even greater limits. (Washington Post-ABC News, 7/13)
  • 59 percent of Americans either strongly or somewhat favor a federal law banning most abortions after 20 weeks. (Huffington Post/YouGov, 6/13)
  • 52 percent of people 18-29 years old support banning virtually all abortions nationwide after 20 weeks. (United Technologies/National Journal, 6/13)
  • 64 percent support a law prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks. (The Polling Company, 3/13)
  • 64 percent think abortion should generally be illegal after the first three months of pregnancy. (Gallup, 12/12)

Based on these numbers, Americans should be celebrating the House’s decision today, but remain cautious. Although Congress has passed H.R. 36, the White House has already warned President Obama would veto the bill. If history is any indication, we’re in for some bad news.

Yet, this is an important step forward in the abortion debate and the question of when human life actually begins.

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